Remembering the West Loch disaster - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Remembering the West Loch disaster

Harry Horn Harry Horn
Daniel Martinez Daniel Martinez
Roy Sannella Roy Sannella

By Stephanie Lum - bio | email

PEARL HARBOR (KHNL) - One by one, survivors of Pearl Harbor's second greatest disaster make their way to a place they will never forget. It is the 65th anniversary of the West Loch disaster. A rusted ship is the only reminder of that fateful day.

Harry Horn was one of the lucky ones.

"I tried to pay whatever respects that I could cause there's a lot of men on that ship," said Horn.

It happened on May 21, 1944 on a Sunday afternoon. Crews were preparing 29 landing tank ships in the harbor's West Loch, loading ammunition, vehicles and fuel for the invasion of Saipan.

"At 3:08 p.m., an explosion suddenly ripped through lst 353," said Chief Historian Daniel Martinez.

Horn recalled, "We heard the explosion and we felt the explosion as the ship lifted up and banged down! I remember being hearing cut the lines, cut the lines and just get the hell out of here! Get out of here!"

It was a chain reaction, there was explosion after explosion. Harry Horn and his crew escaped but others aboard the ships tied together, did not.

"In a matter of moments, a quiet sunday had been turned into a cauldron of death and horror," said Martinez.

163 men were killed and 396 were wounded, but the rest of the world was never told what happened until 16 years later.

Today, the story of the tragedy at West Loch lives on at a special monument at Pearl Harbor so that everyone can understand the honor and great sacrifice of the greatest generation.

"Always remember this day," said survivor Roy Sannella, "Let everyone know what had happened on this day because it was a secret all these years."

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